Aurora Lights Home     Journey Up Coal River     Lesson Plans     Resources     Scholar-Activist Alliance  

The music of movement.

A unique combination of music, visuals, and community involvement, "Still Moving Mountains: The Journey Home" unleashes the passion and urgency empowering the movement against mountaintop removal at this critical moment. The album includes all facets of the movement for justice and progress in Central Appalachia.

Album Cover

Still Moving Mountains: The Journey Home

(c) 2009 Chad Stevens

The album is a sequel to 2004's successful "Moving Mountains," a musical compilation of artists and residents released by Falling Mountain Music. It was produced by Jen Osha, founder and Director of Aurora Lights, a nonprofit organization based out of Morgantown, West Virginia. All proceeds from the album will be used for grants and other educational and charitable purposes consistent with Aurora Lights' mission to raise awareness of the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining. The first CD raised more than $6,000 for local grassroots work.

The first grant from this CD goes to support the community kitchen in Rock Creek, W.Va. This volunteer kitchen feeds activists and community members living in the Coal River Valley, many of whom are working to end mountaintop removal.

Continuing in their goal to "strengthen the connections within and between human communities and their natural environment by promoting environmental and social action," Aurora Lights has finished a second body of music and interviews. "Still Moving Mountains: The Journey Home" follows a vein similar to their first release, but according to the producers the concept is branching out further.

The concept for 2004's "Moving Mountains" came from the idea that the music of the movement is important but not highlighted enough, and most of the songs were explicitly anti-mountaintop removal. The new album doesn't depart from the cause, but it does emphasize the beauty that remains in the communities of the Appalachian coalfields.

In other words, there is more to Central Appalachia than coal.

Future-minded music

Coal River Mountain

Central Appalachia offers much more than coal. Photo by Sam McCreery.

Through 14 musical tracks and additional interviews, the new CD expands upon Aurora Lights' first benefit CD. Like the first, "Still Moving Mountains" mourns the devastation of mountaintop removal coal mining and celebrates the courage of coalfield resistance - while also celebrating the surviving communities' beauty and the residents' hopes for the future.

The producers selected music for "Still Moving Mountains" to emphasize that without a focus on intentional transformation to create a positive future, the beauty that remains in Appalachia will not survive the blasts and out-of-order court rulings. This is reflected in the music of the future-minded, as coalfield areas look ahead to renewable energy like wind farms and bring it into today.

The CD combines interviews with local residents impacted by mountaintop removal with a mixture of local and well-known artists: Kathy Mattea, Del McCoury, Blue Highway, Everett Lilly and the Lilly Mountaineers, Great American Taxi, and Andrew McKnight. Interviews from Mattea and Robert Kennedy, Jr., are also on the CD. "The combination of music and interviews on 'Still Moving Mountains' is especially intriguing," Mattea said. "I am excited about the musical, inspirational and educational combination here, and honored to be part of it." Aurora Lights production manager Sam McCreery believes this mixture creates an opportunity for everyone featured on the album. The presence of more well-known artists' names on a CD will give newer musicians a great opportunity for increased listening exposure, but it also points to the merit of the lesser known artists who are paired with some of the greats.

Album Cover

Vince Herman of Great American Taxi. Photo by Eric Peter Abramson.

This project gave all of the artists the opportunity to learn more about the movement for justice in Appalachia as they listen to each others' music and pass along their stories and lessons learned. Musician Vince Herman of Great American Taxi described his contribution as an expressive act of standing in solidarity with local activists like Ed Wiley. "I think music is a great way to tell a story that breaks people's hearts and stirs them to action," Herman explained.

"My family has a history in underground mining, and I have a deep love of West Virginia from the years I spent playing and studying there...The least I could do is write a song. The least we can do as a country is to stop MTR in its tracks right now before more of this great country is lost forever," Herman added.

Hillsides come a-sliding

Beyond the collection of music, the project goes hand in hand with a multimedia website titled Journey Up Coal River. The website features links to interviews with residents and activists in the Valley, as well as additional photographs and songs particularly related to the local area.

Mountain top removal

Aggressive mining practices spare neither Appalachia's people nor its countryside. Photo by Jen Osha.

The website adds to community efforts by mapping the Coal River Valley through the eyes of the community itself. On the website, listeners can use the map to pinpoint the setting of a song or issue, and find photographs, videos, interviews, and stories to deepen their understanding of the issue, and even get involved themselves. The website was developed with financial support from the West Virginia Humanities Council and represents an inspirational grassroots effort from many volunteers, residents, and organizations.

"The multimedia website also serves as a classroom educational tool, providing lesson plans layered in six themes," says the website's designer and copy-editor, Charles Suggs. "Professors from both within West Virginia and out of state have already started developing unique curricula based upon the CD and website."

The producers describe the site as showing both the human and the physical geography of the area, including not just the rich terrain and landscape but also the culture, tradition and lifestyle of the people whose heritage in the Valley goes back for generations. Imagine you're listening to a rendition of "Black Waters." When you reach the lyrics "the hillsides come a-sliding so awful and grand," you can take the experience to the next level just by going to the map online.

There, a link will take you from the song about black water to the website of the Prenter Emergency Water Fund, with information about a community in the Coal River Valley being robbed of clean drinking water because of nearby mines and coal processing. You can listen to a resident of Prenter Hollow talk about her fight to find clean water and to protect the land from those who want to use it for their own purposes.

Artists of Appalachia

The CD features fourteen musical tracks and additional interviews. Among the artists are:

Everett Lilly and the Lilly Mountaineers - Masters of Bluegrass music, The Lilly Brothers, Everett and Bea, and Don Stover were pioneers in bringing professionally performed southern Appalachian music to the upper northeastern region of the United States. Originating from Clear Creek, a community near Beckley, West Virginia, Everett and Bea began their career by singing in churches and at area shows. (Image and bio from
Lyrics: Long Journey Home
The Del McCoury Band - The Del McCoury Band has embodied the best qualities of bluegrass. The band enjoys the praise of traditional bluegrass lovers and tie-dyed clad 'Del-Heads' alike. Del, born in Bakersville, North Carolina, has proven not to be a relic of bluegrass music's past, but an architect of its future. (Image and bio from Photo by Brian Blauser.)
Lyrics: Mountain Song
Blue Highway - At the 15-year mark, Blue Highway is indisputably one of the most esteemed and influential groups in contemporary bluegrass. Individually, Jason Burleson (banjo, guitar, mandolin), Rob Ickes (Dobro), Shawn Lane (mandolin, fiddle, vocals), Tim Stafford (guitar, vocals), and Wayne Taylor (bass, vocals) are masters of their respective roles. Together, in Stafford's words, they are "a democracy [of music] in the best sense of the word." (Image and bio from
Lyrics: Clear Cut
Ben Gilmer - Ben Gilmer grew up in the mountains of southwestern Virginia where he passed his time messing around the farm with his brother and cousins and playing music with family. Ben started out learning traditional bluegrass music the traditional way - Thursday nights at the local barbershop with the regular gathering of seasoned pickers. Ben's songwriting reflects a strong sense of place deeply rooted in southern Appalachia - honest songs about hard times, family, and love. (Image and bio from
Lyrics: Cabin Creek Hollow
Kathy Mattea - Kathy Mattea, the beloved, Grammy-winning singer of such classics as "18 Wheels and A Dozen Roses," "Where've You Been," and many other hits says that her new album offered her a "re-education" in singing. That album, COAL, is a re-education for the listener as well, a record that reshapes the way we think about music, reminding us of why we love it so much in the first place. (Image and bio from
Lyrics: Blue Diamond Mines

"'Blue Diamond Mines' is a classic, written by Jean Ritchie. It encompasses so much about the history of mining, from union organizing to black lung to strip mining, to the monoculture that can hold people hostage and take away their choices.

The combination of music and interviews on 'Still Moving Mountains' is especially intriguing. I am excited about the musical, inspirational and educational combination here, and honored to be part of it."

—Kathy Mattea

The LoneTones - The Lonetones are a Knoxville, Tenn., band that plays original, Appalachian, roots-based music that goes well beyond the "tradition." They've been called modern folk, Americana, folk rock, "an Appalachian Belle and Sebastian." They"ve been accused of having a unique sound and strong song writing. They have three albums to their credit that have garnered national attention. (Image and bio from
Lyrics: State of the Art
Debra Cowan - Debra Cowan was once asked what kind of songs she writes. Her reply? "Bad ones. Besides, there are so many good songs out there written by others and they should be sung." Her captivating warm alto carries each folk song she chooses with such emotion that you'll forget that they were written by others. She performs a cappella and with guitar in the great tradition of folk singers like Joan Baez and Judy Collins, with a clear vocal that calls forth the ghosts of long past but can also offer a more modern urban landscape. (Image and bio from Photo by Susan Wilson.)
Lyrics: Who Brought the Flood?
Mike Morningstar - When poor health limited his physical activity at age 12, Mike Morningstar turned to the guitar. He concentrated on learning the "flat-pick" style for the next three and a half years. In 1964 at 16 years of age, Mike kicked off his professional musical career when he joined a rhythm & blues/soul band, composed of mostly black artists. For the past three decades, Mike has played music in nightclubs and pubs, at festivals and college campuses and as the opening act for many artists. (Image and bio from
Lyrics: Buffalo Creek

"My brother, Steve, and I were staying in a small hunting camp on Bull Creek, W.Va. in the spring of 1972, when the "Buffalo Creek Flood" occurred. My brother's good friend, Keith, worked for the Department of Natural Resources, and was called out to help in the clean-up after the disaster. He told us about pulling the bodies of dead children from the mud and debris along that hollow. That experience left him angry, and his anger was contageous. My brother and I wrote the song in about an hour and I've been singing it for 37 years in hopes that people will not forget those children who lost everything."


Alan Johnston and the South 52 - South 52, featuring Alan Johnston, Jessi Shumate, Stacy Grubb, Steve Acord, Nathan Lawson, and Charlie Davis, is not your everyday run of the mill bluegrass band. Just come out to a show and listen to their special treatment of songs from ZZ Top to Ralph Stanley plus a vast array of original songs and you'll see for yourself! Their new CD, Sweet Appalachia, is complete and consists of 16 songs - of which 15 are original songs written by Alan and Stacy. (Image and bio from
Lyrics: Sweet Appalachia
Keith and Joan Pitzer - Now residing in the Allegheny ridges in the northern mountains of West Virginia, Keith and Joan Pitzer have been performing together for over thirty years. Their folk oriented roots music accentuated with strong harmonies, Keith's unique and masterful guitar style and harmonica and Joan's solid fretless bass and occasional penny whistle puts one in the mind of some of the great folksingers like Ian and Sylvia Tyson or Gordon Lightfoot. (Image and bio from
Lyrics: Mountains of Blues
R.I.S.E. - R.I.S.E. (formally Rising Appalachia) is a genre-bending force of sound that uses both lyrical prowess and diverse artistic collaborations to defy cultural cliches and ignite a musical revolution. Music is the tool with which we wield political prowess. Melody for the Roots of each of us...spreading song and sound around the globe. (Image and bio from
Lyrics: Scale Down

"Appalachia is a deeply sacred place. It holds a wealth of knowledge in ecology, and plant diversity that rivals even the Amazon. But beyond that, it is a magical mystical space to simply take a breath in. It is no great challenge for anyone to look at the excessive damage of mountaintop removal and recognize that it is one more painful step away from a balanced existence within the earth. This kind of mining is another crystalline example of corporate growth at the expense of the working class, offering short term jobs to hard working locals who need the income—but are given little explanation or apology for the devastating long term effects that mountaintop removal has on everyone. The work being done to raise consciousness about Appalachia is just as pressing as the movements to reduce prison numbers in our urban spaces or to discontinue the logging of our rain-forests. It is absolutely necessary for people to ban together to reduce the human impact on the world. We are each deeply connected to this living planet, both around the corner and across the sea...

RISE believes that it is our privilege and our full responsibility to use the power of music and art to continue to promote a deeper awareness of modern alchemy - we are each mixing and melting a recipe for sustainability, creating a palate for a healthy socio-economic-human existence... reveling in the value of each living thing around us. "

of the RISE collective

Great American Taxi - Great American Taxi has been led by Vince Herman and Chad Staehly since its inception for a Rainforest Action Group benefit show in March of 2005. Now approaching well over 400 shows, the band has kept a fairly busy schedule of 140 shows a year. Great American Taxi's sound has been compared to a variety of roots oriented bands including New Riders of the Purple Sage, a "Grateful Dead for the new millennium," Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, The Byrds and more. (Image and bio from
Lyrics: Appalachian Soul

"I think music is a great way to tell a story that breaks peoples' hearts and stirs them to action. My family has a history in underground mining and I have a deep love of West Virginia from the years I spent playing and studying there. One needs only one look at a mountaintop removal site to know that that land is lost forever. That breaks my heart. I can't imagine how it feels to those with deeper connections to the land than I have. A family grave destroyed, black water pouring out the homestead faucet, a fishing hole destroyed. The least iI could do is write a song. The least we can do as a country is to stop MTR in its tracks right now before more of this great country is lost forever."

—Vince Herman

Andrew McKnight - Since permanently leaving his corporate environmental engineering career in 1996, the award-winning folk and Americana artist's musical journey has traced nearly half a million miles of blue highways nationwide, and earned him a wealth of critical acclaim and enthusiastic fans for his captivating performances and five CDs on the independent Falling Mountain Music label. The Shenandoah Valley-based performer often shares his talents for worthy causes. (Image and bio from
Lyrics: Made by Hand
Osha, Samples, and Farsetta - Jen Osha, Grayson Samples, and Vince Farsetta came together to play Shumate Dam, a song about the dangers of the slurry impoundment behind Marshfork elementary. Life-long musician and activist Jen Osha is a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who enjoys writing songs around issues of social justice. Grayson Samples comes from a musical family tree that spans generations of Appalachian traditional musicians, and has appeared at the Vandalia Gathering, the West Virginia State Folk Festival, Stonewall Resort, Snowshoe, Mountain Stage, The Brazen Head Inn, and many other gatherings. Vince Farsetta is a two time National Old Time Banjo Champion, a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist (banjo, guitar, mandolin, and dulcimer) and a songwriter with songs recorded by Leftover Salmon, Toni Price, David Schnaufer, and Dave Grant featuring Dave Mathew's on vocal.
Lyrics: Shumate Dam

With Help From

Jeff Bosley - Jeff Bosley, technical director of West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Mountain Stage, is also the technical director for "Still Moving Mountains: The Journey Home." Jeff and Jen Osha have worked closely together since 2002 to produce the first Moving Mountains CD and have collaborated on community concerts as well. Jeff currently produces student and faculty recording projects at Marshall University's Jomie Jazz studio as well as conducting classes and workshops in Music Technology and Digital Recording for the MU Music Department. He has engineered on-location webcasts of the West Virginia Supreme Court for the last six years.
Jen Osha - Nine years ago, the courage of coalfield residents drew Jen Osha to the struggle against mountaintop removal in southern West Virginia. For two years, she traveled the mountain state to record interviews and music for the 2004 Moving Mountains benefit CD. Now a Ph.D. candidate in geography at West Virginia University, Osha is using her research to combine music, local interviews, and participatory maps with multimedia and additional resources on the accompanying website. The result is an organizing tool created by and for the local people. Osha is currently the Director of Aurora Lights, which she founded in 1998 after witnessing first hand the impacts of clear-cutting and oil drilling on the Quichua and Huaorani peoples of Ecuador. (Photograph (c) Antrim Caskey, 2009)
Chad Stevens - In the past five years, Chad A. Stevens has been a faculty member in the photojournalism program at the International Center of Photography, Western Kentucky University and Ohio University, a nomadic photographer and multimedia producer in Africa, a multimedia producer at MediaStorm, and is now a faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2006 he began a documentary about energy in Appalachia. In 2008 he was nominated for an Emmy in the 2008 Awards for News and Documentary and won a Webby Award in 2009. While in Africa, he produced multimedia projects for Save the Children, AIDchild, Literacy and Basic Education and the Global Food for Education Initiative. When not working his time was spent wandering through Uganda, climbing a volcano, tracking chimpanzees, swimming in the deepest lake in Africa and teaching children to juggle. (Photograph (c)Chad Stevens, 2009)